To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Thursday, July 18, 2024

Observercast

Springtime For Washington: A Smorgasbord

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BY JAMIE STIEHM

WASHINGTON – After the parched seven-year famine of former President Donald Trump and the pandemic, the city let its hair down – or put it up – and donned black tie and party frocks for an evening of mirth.

President Joe Biden starred in a deft speech onstage at the ballroom of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, serious and self-deprecating in his stand for the First Amendment, written by his “friend Jemmy Madison.

[Nailed it.]

Biden recognized Brittney Griner, the basketball player jailed in Russia for nine months to a roar of applause. “Stand up, kid.” I met the glowing athlete, and she stands 6’9″.

Comedian Roy Wood Jr. teased Biden about French street riots over raising the retirement age to 64: “We have an 80-year-old man begging us for four more years.”

Biden beamed, enjoying the joke on him. That was the best moment, refreshing as a vital sign for a healthy body politic. Think of John F. Kennedy, a master of irony. Bill Clinton dearly loved to laugh.

[Poor Trump could never do that, so boycotted the Dinner.]

None of the nine Supreme Court Justices attended the gathering of the tribe. News just broke of their enjoying free trips to teach classes in Italy or Iceland, courtesy of megarich donors.

But it’s no secret: even the Nine know their institution is in the doghouse. America is not amused by the radical decision to revoke reproductive rights from girls and women last June.

Put more elegantly, the Court is in crisis. Chief Justice John Roberts is bruised after a run of “calling balls and strikes” as a judicial philosophy, if you can call it that.

Justice Clarence Thomas was a butt of Wood’s jokes, based on billionaire Harlan Crow’s financing fabulous vacations and even buying and fixing up Thomas’ mother’s house in Georgia. That cracked up the room.

Here’s the flaw: The power-drunk Court has none of Madison’s checks and balances. The Court refuses to bridle its own excesses and has the last word on our everything.

Roberts just snubbed a Senate invitation to testify on whether it should adopt a stricter ethics code.

The Federal Reserve is another island under siege. First Republic Bank’s failure is the third such collapse since March. But you know what? At least the Fed had the decency to study its lax regulation mistakes and publicly release its scathing self-criticism.

Supreme Court, follow the Fed.

Now the Dinner parties are over, the capital must confront the dire debt limit threat to the country posed by the “Freedom Caucus,” which is the boss of malleable Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-CA.

Mostly rude Southern Republicans, the 50 may chop the trees of democracy – and shake the world economy. To block Biden’s path to raising the debt limit is a brazen strategy.

House Republicans barely passed a draconian package of social spending cuts as ransom for doing the right thing.

June 1 is the deadline for a default, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced. Democrats are sticking with the usual “clean” approach to raising the limit, with no conditions.

Most Americans don’t know the extent of the emergency because the mainstream press serves up mush like this:

“Biden’s economic numbers are already weak. Navigating the debate over the debt ceiling to a successful substantive and political conclusion remains a major challenge for the president.”

Memo to Washington Post: job creation is roaring, and unemployment is at a historic low.

These lines shift the burden to Biden. The sides should not be equalized. The band of hard-right Republicans should not get an ink drop of legitimacy.

Presidents always get cooperation from Congress in raising the debt limit. It was the last bipartisan custom in town.

At stake is the sterling Treasury’s “full faith and credit.” The United States never defaults on its bills and was prepared to pay for the $2 trillion Trump tax cut [for businesses and the wealthy.]

The deadline means the good of the country “hurtles toward disaster,” as Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren bluntly put it.

Understand this: it’s just another way to undo the election Republicans lost, a shameless unraveling of the social and veterans programs Biden put in place after he was elected.

Fair and square.

Jamie Stiehm may be reached at JamieStiehm.com. Follow her on Twitter @JamieStiehm.

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